‘They were nesting in my underpants’ – John Woodhouse on the city’s rodent issues – Stoke Sentinel

Recommended by Ronald Stiles, Published on July 2nd, 2017


Stoke-on-Trent has come 12th in a national league of rat infestations. Next year it's hoping to push for a place in Europe.

I have seen them myself, big blighters, in Hanley Park. Several of them do Park Run on a Saturday morning.

It gives you a turn to see a rat scuttling about. It's not what you expect to see in Hanley Park, a place more commonly associated with duck-feeding, football games, and alcoholics.

But then again, you have to ask why they're there. It's because of the detritus we leave behind. And they like a go on the swings.

Rats live around humans because we're messy. Food scraps, half eaten chocolate bars, and takeaway wrappers abound. But enough of our bedroom.

Read more: Stoke-on-Trent is UK's 12th worst area for rat infestations

The unfortunate thing is that when rats turn up in a neighbourhood they need somewhere to reside. It's then they invade some poor devil's home. No-one wants to wake up at 3am with a rat nibbling stubborn bits of bacon from their false teeth on the bedside table.

I know what it's like to live with vermin. For six weeks at college I lived with a Celine Dion fan. Over a longer period, the property was also infested with mice.

People say mice are nice but they'd disagree if they'd ever found one pulling the hard cheese off the side of the sandwich toaster.

I'm not a violent man I've humanely removed more earwigs from our kitchen than you've had hot dinners but there's only so much rodent life you can take. At night I'd hear them scratching in my bedroom. No doubt about it - they were nesting in my underpants.

In the end, and I'm not proud of it, I bought some traps. Some decent cheese went in those things, Cathedral City, Dairylea. They were having none of it. Only later did someone tell me the best thing to use is chocolate. I was going to use chocolate mice but on reflection I didn't think rodents did irony.

Rats, however, are on another level. My mum was once afflicted by several which lived under a nearby shed. They're absolute beggars to get rid of. They used to steal the stuff she put out for the birds. Who knew rats liked hard skin and toenails?

The thing with rats is they breed like Kerry Katona. For them every night is like a power cut in 1974. They just can't keep their hands off each other. Someone should write a Mills & Boon about it.

It needs an expert to get rid of them, or someone with a big gun. Exterminators were called out to deal with rats on 2,581 occasions in Stoke-on-Trent last year. The mayor's fur hat has never looked better.

Elsewhere, Staffordshire Moorlands District Council was ranked 19th for rats, while Stafford Borough Council had the seventh highest rate of call-outs for 'mammals'. Quite what these 'mammals' were is unspecified. My sympathies if you had a lion infestation.

The Potteries, meanwhile, also came 19th for ant call-outs. The sooner rats start eating ants the better.

While we are all familiar with nightmare tales of rats causing domestic upset, it needn't all be doom and gloom. There is a plus-side. Look at it this way, it's at least a week off work if you get the plague.

Similarly, as it pushes through its austerity programme, government advice is that a good covering of rats on an elderly relative can help keep the cold out.

Councils are generally fairly adept at removing rat infestations but if residents feel they aren't receiving a good service, they do have one last option - buy a tin whistle and lead them into the council chamber.

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'They were nesting in my underpants' - John Woodhouse on the city's rodent issues - Stoke Sentinel

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